“Fading West” brings fresh energy and experimentation to Switchfoot’s catalog while retaining their familiar sound. It’s an energetic, inspiring album that works well with the accompanying film of the same name. It’s rounded out with the EP, “The Edge of the Earth” which contains unreleased songs from the film.
“Morning Phase” is Beck’s best album in years. The album creates a deep, introspective mood through thoughtful lyrics and beautiful instrumentation. This album has a similar feel to 2002’s “Sea Change.”
In typical Sloan fashion, “Commonwealth” gives each of the band’s four members a chance to shine with his own set of songs. While this could prove messy for most bands, “Commonwealth” showcases each member’s different songwriting and musical styles to create a well-rounded album without becoming incoherent.
Recorded in eight different U.S. cities, “Sonic Highways” is a great concept album from the Foo Fighters. I feel the album is best appreciated alongside its accompanying HBO mini-series of the same title, as the show provides context for many of the lyrics. This album is more about the Foo Fighters’ journey and the people they met along the way, and Sonic Highways reflects that. The entire album is full of heart.
“Vagabond” has very moving, thought-provoking lyrics that capture the spirit of an individual on a journey through life, relationships, and discovery of what’s truly important in life, and what one can do without.
“Whoop Dee Doo” is the band’s first album in ten years. The Muffs are back and just as good as ever. Kim’s vocals have slightly deepened with age, but she’s still got her trademark scream and youthful energy. It’s a solid album, and even though it doesn’t break a lot of new ground, it’s a satisfying addition to the band’s catalog, especially for longtime fans.
Before I look at some of this year’s upcoming releases, I want to revisit the music and movies that made my 2014. Since ranking favorites is a moderate form of torture for a music/film enthusiast, they’re not listed in a particular order. You can click each picture to enlarge it and read the captions.
It took a while for me to completely wrap my mind around this film, and I still think I need a second viewing, but what really sells “Birdman” for me are the stunning performances from its cast.
The fact that this film exists is mindblowing to me. It was filmed over a twelve year period and is one of the most moving films I have seen in a long time. This is another film with standout acting performances.
“Hellion” is a realistic, sometimes gritty, portrayal of the life of Texas brothers and their father’s attempts to hold it together. The characters feel very real and it’s been interesting to see the film expand from a Sundance short into feature length. Child actor Josh Wiggins gives a standout performance in his first role, and I hope to see him in more films in the future.
I’ll admit that initially, I had low expectations for this movie, but was pleasantly surprised by how great it was. It was funny, smartly written, and was designed to appeal to viewers of all ages. The awesome animation deserves a nod as well.
“Whiplash” was the most stress-inducing film I saw this year, but in a good way. It’s an intense film that poses some intriguing questions. Is greatness innate or does it have to be pushed and extracted from someone? For those striving for greatness, how far is too far? This film has an amazing soundtrack, and a career-best performance from J.K. Simmons. At many points in this film, I found myself holding my breath and gripping my seat from the intensity.